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Emancipation of the Spirit

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


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“[Pharaoh] harnessed his chariot, and took his people with him. He took six hundred select chariots and all the chariots of Egypt, with officers over them all.”
“And the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold! the Egyptians were advancing after them. They were very frightened, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, ‘Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us to die in the desert? What is this that you have done to us to take us out of Egypt?’” (Exodus 14:6,7,10,11)

We can only imagine the state of the Egyptian army which pursued the Jews through the desert.  Physically, these were soldiers who were recovering from ten catastrophic plagues. They were near starvation because practically their entire food supply had been destroyed by the plagues of pestilence, hail, and locusts. Their numbers were certainly decimated by the death of all the first born; and we can assume that the dead included many high ranking army officers, a situation which wreaked havoc on the military chain of command vital to smooth warfare operation. Most importantly, their morale couldn’t have been any lower. Virtually all of them were mourning the death of friends and relatives who had expired in the plague of the first born less than a week earlier. And they couldn’t have been too eager to battle an enemy which obviously had super-natural powers at its disposal. 

The Israelites upon seeing the bedraggled Egyptian army, with their 600 first-rate chariots, they panicked! Why the panic? Go crush them!
The Israelites, on the other hand, were fresh – actual slavery having stopped nearly one year earlier, as soon as the first plague struck Egypt – and full of confidence: “and the children of Israel were marching out triumphantly.” They were well armed, and their numbers included 600,000 battle-worthy men. Yet incredibly, upon seeing the bedraggled Egyptian army, with their 600 first-rate chariots, and an assortment of low-grade chariots, they panicked!

Why the panic? Go crush them!

The Ibn Ezra (12th century Spanish scholar and Biblical commentator) answers this question with remarkable insight: “The Egyptians were masters over the Israelites, and this generation which departed Egypt was trained from its youth to tolerate the yoke of Egypt... Its soul was downtrodden, and how will they be able to wage battle against their masters? And the Israelites were meek, and unlearned in [the art of] battle ... And G-d alone does great [wonders], and He establishes schemes. He orchestrated that all the [Israelite] males who left Egypt should die, for they had no strength to battle the Canaanites, until a new generation arose, a generation which never saw exile, and they had a proud spirit.”


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"Emancipation of spirit" article

Posted by: Snow, OH on Jan 19, 2006

I loved it! It was great to get a feel of the numbers in the Egyptian and Israeli Armies, and to get a feel of what was on the minds of the Israeli's and Egyptians. For example: The Egyptians mourning the loss of the first born, and the Israeli's having the mind-set of the Egyptians as still being their slave masters. Incredible insight! Thank you!


Philosophy » Messiah
Israel » Messiah

Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
Plural form of Mitzvah. Commandments of G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
1. A Hebrew priest and scribe, who, together with Nehemiah, revived Judaism in the 4th century BCE. He was instrumental in the building of the 2nd Temple. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, which describes the events of Ezra's lifetime.
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.